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Records of an Old Whaler Tell of Problems, Success

Footnotes to Long Island History

  RECORDS OF AN OLD WHALER TELL OF PROBLEMS SUCCESS
DEC 7 1967
 
by

Thomas R. Bayles


             Among the better known vessels of Sag Harbor fleet in the period after 1850, and up to the decline of whale fishery after the Civil War was the little bark Odd Fellow joining the Long Island blubber hunters in the year after the California gold rush, the Odd Fellow made six voyages to the Atlantic and Indian oceans bringing home a quantity of oil and whale bone valued at over $200,000.

Capt Hedges commanded the bark on her first voyage from the old whaling port of Sag Harbor which netted $23,000, the most profitable voyage of the Odd Fellow brought home $59,000. This was during the Civil War and Capt Weld was in charge. The log book for this cruise was published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle for May 25, 1907, and here are some of the entries:

        "August 24 1861 the steamer Massachusetts towed us down to Gardiner's bay where we came to, proceeding to sea on the 25th."

     "Sept 7 saw our first whale, lowered two boats, but lost the run of him, Whales were again seen the next day but we could not strike them."

       "Sept 16; anchored at the Western Island the captain has been sick for two weeks. Shipped a boat steerer and a cabin boy from Fayal. Stood out to sea on the 19th."

      "Sept 25t; Strong breeze from the north east  Bark is a leaking 200 stokes an hour. The leak is on the increase and we cannot stop it out to sea."

    " Sept. 30; Came to anchor in the harbor of the Port of Frazo for the purpose of stopping the leak in the bow. Took off some sheathing on the starboard bow and found three seems about two feet long that had never had any oakum in them. Caulked them the best we could and got under way Oct. 2."

       "October 7; took three black fish and started a fire in the try  works. From this date up to April 1 1862 whales were raised most every day. On November 20 a big right whale was taken. The Odd Fellow cruised along the Patagonia coast. On January 10, 1862, struck two sperm whales. The iron drew from one. Killed the other, he sunk, but we hauled him along side. On Feb. 25th two sperm whales were struck and the starboard got stove and had to cut and let its whale go. On March 4th a large sperm whale and after a hard battle killed. The mate got knocked over board by the whale and was hurt somewhat about the shoulders and neck"

     "The bark spoke the whaler John A Robb of Sag Harbor, soon after, and then set sail for St. Catherine's to take on water, and fresh vegetables. When forty miles off the land on May 10, the Odd Fellow ran into a heavy squall that blew away her jib and burst the foretopmast stay sail."  St. Catherine was reached the next day and the log reads that two new men were shipped, and after taking on water beans bullocks and bananas, ten barrels of oil were sent ashore in payment and the bark stood out to sea on the 29th bound for St. Helena. The next entry appears under date of Sept. 18th "Saw a gam of sperm  whales lowered and struck one. The line parted; chased until after sundown, but could not get hold again."

       Several entries appear of striking and killings whales up to Jan. 28, 1863, when the ship was cruising off the coast of Patagonia. An entry for Jan. 29, reads "strong gale, ship makes considerable water. Have to pump about a quarter of the time." The entries continue until August 27th, when the bark came to anchor in the harbor of Santa Cruz. Some of the crew were afflicted with scurvy. They were engaged in smoking ship to drive out rats.

 "December 25 this day keeping Christmas in harbor of Santa Cruz. Captain up town. Can do no work."

After this the ship headed for home and in spite of bad leaks and running into bad weather Capt weld succeeded in dodging the confederate war ships and brought home a rich cargo. 

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